It’s been almost six months since the UK referendum showed that a majority of voters wanted to leave the EU and since then industries have tried to prepare themselves for every potential scenario. The Engineering sector already had a few challenges facing such as a skills shortage that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
With one of the key selling points of Brexit being more control over the borders, the free movement that was attached to EU membership will become restricted when Article 50 is triggered. With 15% of staff employed throughout the Engineering sector coming from the EU, professionals are trying to discover whether Brexit will help the industry or have an adverse effect.
The industry is still in need of a talent pool made up of skilled experts and encouraging more students into STEM subjects is a long-term solution. Skilled engineers are needed immediately to help with the completion of huge infrastructural projects such as HS2 and Hinkley Point C. By making it harder to access the EU talent pool, these projects could quickly see delays due to a lacking workforce. Alongside this, if the demand for skilled staff on these projects outweighs the supply, the cost could very quickly skyrocket.
Within the Engineering sector, there is also a need to ensure that any post-Brexit immigration laws allow for intra-company transfers across Europe to allow companies to move their engineers where they’re needed to support contracts such as HS2.
Another big part of Brexit was the removal of Brussels’ red tape implemented through various EU regulations. However, Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering suggests that this is not the case. British companies may be forced to sign up to the same regulations and standards as before to sell UK-made products throughout Europe.
Shortly after the Brexit vote was announced, a survey showed that industry optimism within manufacturing reached its lowest since the 2009 financial crisis. Despite this, demand in British manufacturing grew shortly after the pound fell in value and it became cheaper to purchase materials from the UK. This was seen throughout Q3 as orders rose by a record amount.
The Engineering and Manufacturing industries currently make up around 10% of the UK economy but in gross added value, they contribute approximately 20% equalling £280billion. With these figure in mind, the problems that affect these sectors should be a critical part of the Brexit negotiations.
While Brexit hasn’t crippled the Engineering industry, it has posed some potential challenges that will need closure before Article 50 is triggered. The skills gap that has hindered Engineering projects is still a major concern and complicating the freedom of movement across the EU may lead to the demand completely outweighing the supply.
We won’t know the full extent to which Brexit will have on the until Article 50 is triggered and the UK fully departs from the EU, however the politicians leading the negotiations need to ensure that British Engineering has a secure and stable future to help out economy thrive as we potentially drift away from the single market.